Kitty: I meant to write this HOURS ago! I'm so friggin sorry! I really hope I manage to pull this outta my butt in less than two hours. My stepmom wants me up again tomorrow at 7 bloody 30.
Music: Almost Lover- A Fine Frenzy, (again) My Heart is Lost to You- Brooks and Dunn, We Owned the Night- Lady Antebellum, Just a Kiss- Lady Antebellum
To TheNextAlice: You disabled your PM feature! Your review was so funny, I wanted to reply! And you totally cockblocked me! *creys* Also- first time I've been called a troll. =w=b Sweeet.
Disclaimer: Nope. Still don't own Hetalia. I hate you, law. Hate. You.
Dedication: To all my lovely reviewers. All those who followed me from Hetalia Fairytales, you guys are so amazing. I feel like I have a small posse. I told my stepmom we could take over a small village. Soon, we'll be able to take on a small town! Also, thanks to all my new reviewers, who enjoyed this story with me and left so many encouraging words. Also to all my silent readers, who have favved and alerted this story, and also me as an author. Thank y'all so very much for being AMAZING. ;w;
The Greatest Treasure, You Idiot
It was summer again. The daylight hours were getting longer, the sunsets later and later in the day. It didn't matter, though. Antonio always found his way to the wall just as the sun sank below the horizon. The wall around the stone cottage was only meant to keep drunks from wandering in and was fairly easy to scale. The trio, Francis, Gil, and Antonio, had often sat there, legs dangling over the path, their backs to the garden, passing around a bottle of wine and just enjoying the end of a relaxing day on land. It had been a long time since they'd just relaxed and enjoyed each other's company. A long time since Antonio remembered enjoying anything. Life had become so bleak that not even that wondrous sunset looked beautiful anymore. He couldn't even understand why. It was as if a huge part of himself had been ripped away and he couldn't feel whole.
He ran the slender golden chain through his fingers, the gold warmed from his skin, the ruby hot on his palm.
Children were running and shrieking in the garden behind him, little Wilhelmina chasing after Friedrich, their laughter an innocent music he barely heard. He knew Elizaveta was stretched out on a blanket, her infant son Elik beside her. Inside the house came the gentle trill of a bird. Just that morning, Gilbert had returned with a caged canary for his children, as laughing and boisterous as he used to be. Antonio, somewhere in inside him, was glad that Gilbert was back to himself again.
He turned as someone grunted and pulled himself up onto the wall. A window clattered open. Gilbert swung a leg over and Francis climbed through an upstairs window, carefully making his way over the veranda roof towards the wall. Within moments, his two friends were perched on either side and Francis was holding out a bottle of wine. Antonio grabbed the neck and, with a short sigh first, threw back his head and chugged down a gulp. It slid down smooth as honey, but his head was reeling when he passed it to Gilbert.
"That's expensive," Antonio noted, as Gilbert gasped and crowed aloud.
"The time called for it, mon ami," Francis said simply, snagging the bottle from behind Antonio's head. "You stink. When did you bathe last?" he demanded, his nose curling.
"… I think... I did… today…" Antonio trailed off, green eyes puzzled as he tried desperately to pull together the scattered images in his brain.
"This has to stop, Tony," Gilbert said as he pulled out papers and tobacco. For the most part, Elizaveta hated smoking, but she ignored it when they were perched up on the wall. He rolled a fag as Francis pressed the bottle into Antonio's hand. Antonio shoved the necklace into his pocket as he swigged more wine.
"He's right. We can't dwell on what happened. None of us…" Francis trailed off, blue eyes opaque as he gazed at the sunset.
"We all feel guilty and confused because of what happened, but we can't keep hiding. It's been three years. I can't waste the rest of my life wishing I never agreed to Lutz's idea, missing him and feeling helpless," Gilbert continued for Francis as he gulped down some wine and shoved it back at Antonio. "I have people who love me, we all do."
"I am tired of being too afraid to apologize," Francis whispered. Antonio whipped his head around, eyes wide.
"I gave you bad advice that day," Francis replied with a wry smile. He held up his hand as Antonio wrenched his mouth open. "Non, listen. I told you that you could never have happiness with the one you loved. I told you to let him go. All these years I've thought, 'what if I told him to follow his heart? What if, just once, I believed in a love that overcame all odds?' If I had, Antonio, would you have made the right the choice? Would Lovino have stayed, would Ludwig be with us even now? I've had this weight on my shoulders, these demons in my mind that tell me because of my lack of faith both of you suffered."
"Ah, c'mon, Franfran. I don't blame you," Gilbert protested, throwing his arm in the air, the lit paper glowing brightly between his fingers. "It's not like you knew it would happen! I woulda told Tony the same thing!"
"I never once blamed you, Francis. It was my decision in the end. It had always been my choice," Antonio said firmly, clasping Francis's shoulder and squeezing briefly. He handed over the bottle as Francis grinned.
"Oui, I know it now. It does make me feel better to hear it, though," Francis quipped lightly.
They sat in silence a moment, passing around smouldering tobacco and quickly diminishing wine with the ease of old practice. Gilbert suddenly cleared his throat.
"We should go out."
A heart beat of pause.
"Where?" Antonio whispered, the locket hot in his pocket, the wine churning in his gut. He took a drag on the cigarette and passed it to Francis. The smoke burned his throat, tore with sharp fingers at the lining in his lungs, expelled in a warm rush into the night air past his lips.
"West. Maybe we'll never find that damned island, but I don't want to give up on my brother."
"I agree. We'll go west. Maybe we will find your Lovino again. Maybe we won't. But we will find something."
Antonio nodded, but he knew neither would be found. Lovino was well and truly gone. It was better than nothing, though. "All right."
"The men have been waiting for you to set sail for years, you know. They leave, but they always come back. Most of them are in Tortuga now," Francis told him, with a lift of his blond brow.
"Why don't we sail next month? Stock up, recall what men are scattered, all those good and responsible things I hate doing," Gilbert listed up lazily, taking another deep inhale of smoke.
"Yes. A month."
"You really should bathe, mon ami," Francis repeated, eying Antonio lank, greasy hair and dirty fingernails in disdain. Gilbert rolled his eyes.
"Pansy-man. A man can skip a day or two and be fine. We don't exactly frolic in bubbles out at sea, do we?" Gilbert retorted, wrapping an arm around Antonio's shoulders, the empty bottle thumping against Antonio's chest. Gilbert paused, sniffed audibly. "Wow, you do stink."
"Oh, shut up, Gil," Antonio objected, laughing aloud as he elbowed Gilbert's ribs.
And he continued laughing, his brows contracted low over his nose, his arm moving to wrap around his stomach. Slowly, his friends joined in, the wine coursing in their blood and brains, making them woozy already. Antonio threw back his head, laughed full-bellied towards the stars, tears streaming down his face as his whole body shook.
Yes, the emptiness was still there. Yes, there was a despair that nibbled on the edges of his mind and probably always would. But he had two great friends, blood rich with wine, the smell of sharp, burning tobacco in his nose, and the sound of children's laughter shrieking in the garden.
"You idiots get down from there before you fall!" Elizaveta warned them, making them only laugh harder, collapsing against one another and holding themselves up.
God, it still hurt. But maybe it was okay to be alive.
It took a little more than a month, but the Buscador Dorado was officially setting sail the next day with the high tide. Three years. At first, it had been odd to feel the wood shifting beneath his feet, to smell the brine and tar, hear the yelling and cursing and the slap of canvas and rope, but it lasted only a fleeting moment. Buscador was home. She always would be. Antonio was swabbing the decks, mending sails, and tallying inventory with everyone, never in one place too long, but always in every place whenever he was needed. His men were ecstatic. When he had stepped foot off the gangplank on to the deck, hats and scarves and bandanas had been flung up into the air as every man whooped and hollered, rushing forward to slap their capitan on the back and welcome him. A few of them even got teary when Antonio broke into a large grin.
Throughout the month, though, it became clear he wasn't exactly as he was before. There were moments when a person spoke with him that his eyes became dark and empty, something frozen in their normally so cheerful depths. Sometimes, he would suddenly turn away in the middle of sentence, either his own or someone addressing him, and then pace until he was able to return, force a smile, and continue the conversation. Other times, he stood at the rails- just standing and braced on his hand, completely and utterly still and silent. He never picked up his guitar. Never sang a song. Never danced in the taverns as his men got drunk and caroused around him. Small, strange inconsistencies from his old character. He was still their capitan, though. That was all that mattered.
Antonio was standing at the rails again that late twilight. The slap of sea against the hull, the low, groaning and creaking of wooden boards, the call of the last of the gulls before they settled for sleep; simple, familiar sounds that were like a lullaby. He could barely remember his life before his first days at sea as a boy. He couldn't remember the face of his mother whom died of sickness and poverty, couldn't remember the names of the siblings, all younger than him, that starved and moaned in tiny rooms too full of bodies. Sometimes, when he concentrated, he could remember the smell of cheap tequila and stale tobacco and see the tall, dark form of his father, but he didn't remember much else. His life on the sea had always seemed more like home.
He reached into his pocket and, sighing, pulled free the locket. The gold glittered in the last rays of the sunset, the bright full moon shining down like a silver beacon and glistening on the ruby's surface. All that this silly little trinket stood for was meaningless. It was time to end it. Lovino would never return. And Antonio couldn't blame him. He had failed- failed so damn badly.
I told him I would have faith in him. But I never earned his faith in me. What a joke, Antonio thought bitterly, his fingers curling into a fist.
He stretched back his arm, taking a deep breath as his muscles tensed.
"Haven't you heard of fucking candles?"
Antonio spun around, stepped back, almost tumbling over the rails into the port waters. His nails scrabbled over smoothly sanded wood, until he managed to grip it and pull himself upright. "Santa Maria… L-Lovino?" Antonio breathed aloud, his heart hammering.
He was perched on the capstan, one leg crossed over the other. His clothes were strange, haphazard; a rough white, linen shirt with its sleeves rolled up, black oiled-canvas breeches torn too short, bare feet. Spiky fins spread out from his wrists and ankles, and his nails looked dangerously sharp. Gills flared on his neck briefly before sinking into his flesh. He looked so utterly inhumane, so ridiculously beautiful, Antonio's breath was trapped in his lungs and he was getting lightheaded, as if drunk. The locket slipped from his fingers to the deck with a soft clatter.
"Who else, you idiot?" Lovino snapped, though his smirk wavered at the corners.
Antonio was across the deck, lifting Lovino off the capstan, before the siren could even squawk. Lovino was set down on his feet, but Antonio couldn't take his hands away. He stroked over his hips, up his ribs, rejoicing in the burning heat of Lovino's skin, cupping his sharp-featured, delicately-boned face in his hands, tangled fingers through thick, brown hair. Lovino didn't protest for once, just eagerly returned the attention, greedy fingers plucking at too many layers of clothing and weapon belts and tracing the line of his collarbone. Antonio leaned down, kissed Lovino's forehead, then his temple, before gathering the smaller man in to a tight embrace and breathing in the wild, oceanic smell of him.
"Why… where…" Antonio broke off, choking, and Lovino rolled his eyes.
"Where did you go?" Antonio forced out, reluctantly pulling away to look down into Lovino's face. Lovino's gaze darted away.
"Away. A different reality, actually. A completely different place, like this one. I wanted to go as far away as possible. I felt that I had to go that far. You were so damn close, Antonio. It hurt so much… damn you, damn you…" his voice broke and faded as his eyes closed.
Antonio swallowed hard, letting his forehead fall forward onto Lovino's. "Why did you come back?" he whispered.
There was a long moment, and Antonio felt a flicker of fear that maybe Lovino wouldn't answer and disappear again. Maybe already he was regretting his sudden reappearance. In reflex, his hold on Lovino tightened, making the siren squirm.
"What the hell are you doing? I'm not going anywhere!" Lovino squeaked indignantly. Antonio chuckled and relaxed his hold the tiniest bit. "I can't, if you have to know. I just… I just fucking can't stay away. As much as it hurts, it hurts more not being with you. Wherever I am, it'll never be enough not being with you, damn it! Are you happy?" Lovino exclaimed, his fist hitting Antonio's arm. Fins scraped over camlet fabric, and Lovino sighed. The fins and lengthened nails pulled down into his flesh neatly.
"Shut the fuck up! I'm not done yet! I came back because… because I found hope," Lovino said, finally looking back up at him. A dry, rueful smirk on his face. "A stupid, naïve, little merman gave up everything to have just three days with the mortal he loved. He should have dissolved, he should have died, but the mortal chose him in time. A mortal king chose a nameless, voiceless merman, because for once, love was enough. Antonio… if it could be enough for them, why the hell can't it work for us?" Lovino demanded, scowling as his golden eyes shined.
"Ay, mi corazon, forgive me. I was so stupid. I am so sorry. I messed up," Antonio pleaded, pressing his lips to Lovino's creased forehead.
"Fucking right you did."
"I just… you are so…" Antonio smiled and stroked Lovino's cheek. "We're both so different. You're magic, Lovi, my Lovi… I'll grow old and die soon. How could you ever be a choice for me? A mortal?"
"Even if you grow old and grey, fuck, if you start gibbering and I have to wipe the shit off your ass," Antonio burst into laughter, "shut up. I will… I will love you. Always." Lovino muttered, his face bright red in the starlight. Antonio's eyes widened and he smiled.
"Dios…mi corazon, I love you. I love you, too. I was so stupid-"
"Yes, we already know that. You're an imbecile. Now, shut the hell up and kiss me, idiot," Lovino ordered brusquely, grabbing the lapels of his coat and pulling him down.
"Are you sure, Lovi?" Antonio murmured, holding Lovino in place and making the siren groan. "This is serious, Lovi. Are you sure you want to be chained to a mortal man? I can only give you so much and then I will be gone. Will it even be worth it for you?" Antonio asked, his eyes dark with doubt and fear. Lovino sighed.
"You still don't get it. It was always you. You were always supposed to seek me. I know it now. And damn the consequences, I will be with you. When you die, I will find you. I give a fuck about the rules. You are mine and I am yours through every eternity. I will search through every reality, I will love you whatever body you inhabit. One day, I don't care when, maybe we'll get it right at last and I can be with you the right way, but I don't care how long it takes. It's enough now that we're together, you fucking idiot."
Antonio blinked, bewildered, but his lips quirked up into a smile. "I like the sound of that, mi corazon. I think."
"And you, dumb as you are," Lovino huffed, making Antonio laugh, "will you trust me to find you?"
Antonio grinned and pulled away. He took a long step back before he bowed, sweeping his arm to the side. He looked up, that stupid grin on his face as Lovino's lips twitched. A large hand, so much paler than it used to be, clasped his in a firm, warm grip. Antonio's lips brushed Lovino's knuckles, then he flipped Lovino's hand over to press a kiss, damp, warm, and intimate, to Lovino's palm.
"It was only myself I did not trust. I only wanted to give you everything, but felt I had nothing to offer. Mi corazon, don't you remember? I will always have faith in you," Antonio said as he straightened.
Lovino's eyes widened and he laughed, a real, happy laugh that lit up his whole face. Antonio swept him up into his arms and kissed that laughing mouth, sure that nothing could taste sweeter. He wanted to drink in the longed for feel of the lithe, slender body in his arms, melt into the smaller man's body and sink deep into him. Those moments so long ago, snatched on voyages with expiration dates, had never been enough. However, when Antonio touched his lips to Lovino's, golden light flooded Lovino's skin under Antonio's mouth and both froze, eyes widening in confusion as they stared at each other. Lovino dropped to his feet and they raised their arms high, trying to block the light, but Lovino couldn't escape it. It was under his skin, beneath his eyelids, the gold light was filling up every nook and cranny of him. Antonio's arm was tight around his waist, desperate to hold him in place in case the weird golden light took Lovino away again. Instead, it was gone in a flash, leaving like a punch in Lovino's gut, doubling him over. A grunt escaped and they both fell to their knees, blinking away bright, white spots.
When they could finally see again, Antonio felt as it something was wrong with his eyes. He blinked, shook his head, then blinked again. Lovino raised his hands, wide eyes staring at the pale, web-less digits. He pressed his fingers to his neck and raised eyes, now a light, amber color rather than flawless gold, to Antonio's face.
"The curse broke. I have no fucking clue how or why, but the curse broke. I'm a mortal, Antonio. I… I have a soul!" Lovino exclaimed jubilantly, an amazed, unabashed smile curving his lips.
"A soul? You didn't… you mean, you had a curse? That's what the choice was about? I had to break your curse?" Antonio gasped, his fingers running over Lovino's arms where the trail of scales had been.
"Yes! Oh… Feliciano, he'll be fucking stupidly happy. He's been wanting to be mortal and fall in love and… we have to go get him. He's going to flip shit at me already. How long have I been gone? I was gone for fifty years in that reality!"
"Whoa, calm down, Lovi," Antonio soothed him, holding his shoulders when he tried to rise. "It's only been three years, not fifty. Do I look older than seventy than you? The Buscador was going to set sail for west tomorrow. You came just in time," Antonio joked.
Lovino grinned up at Antonio, amber eyes teary. "I can't believe I'm really fucking free. I'm really free, Antonio," he breathed aloud. He threw himself at Antonio, sending them tumbling to the deck. Antonio's hands immediately clasped Lovino's narrow hips as they laughed.
"Will you stay with me, even though you are free?" Antonio asked, his green eyes warm and twinkling just like they always used to. Lovino scoffed.
"You belong to me, remember? I can't let you out of my sight." He kissed Antonio to shut him up, blushing fiercely.
The trip west was successful. They found Feliciano and Ludwig waiting for them on the beach, the once-siren waving ecstatically. Both pairs of brothers were a loud, excited mess of hugging, kissing, crying, and laughing (and cursing) before they left the tiny dot of land far behind. For the next twenty years, the trio sailed the seven seas, Lovino with them, though he sometimes opted to stay on land with Elizaveta or Feliciano. Ludwig sailed with them for a while, but left with Feliciano back to Germany before he was even thirty. He founded a small brewery there and became a famous businessman and brewer. Feliciano was just as famous for the food he made to go with the beer.
Soon after Lovino returned, the small group of friends made a trip to Austria. It resulted in Elizaveta finally having her son, and his estates, returned to her guardianship. Her ever growing family moved up to Austria, where she was able to finally reconnect with her first son, Roderich. Gilbert was in and out constantly, but all the children, including Roderich, were fond of him- ridiculously so. There were always canaries for birthday gifts, for some reason… He finally retired at the ripe old age of sixty-three from his highjinks on the sea. He and Elizaveta retired to the small dowager cottage on the outskirts of the Edelstein estates and lived surrounded by children, grandchildren, and animals, and, of course, the numerous visits of friends.
Francis decided to return to Paris when he retired. He gave money to many orphanages and hospitals for charity and hosted soirees as often as possible. It was there, in a crowded, dirty clinic for the poor, at the age of 47, he finally found his own love. A young British man who, having spent ten years in the British and French colonies of North America, spoke French with such a strange, pleasant twang that Francis felt compelled to constantly get in his way just to get the man to speak. For some reason, he was completely unnoticeable by those around him, but Francis had been smitten within moments. By the time he finally found out young Matthew William Jones was related, in a strange way, to Arthur Kirkland, it was far too late.
Antonio and Lovino finally settled in Spain when Antonio was almost fifty. He passed on the Buscador to Gilbert, who sailed it almost a decade longer, and bought a small farm. He and Lovino grew tomatoes and lived in a small, warm house that over looked the ocean and great, rolling meadows. Goats grazed their land and Lovino constantly complained about the large amount of stray cats Antonio brought home. They sold tomatoes in the village until they were too old to push the wagon, and then just sat side by side at their home, while the multitude of children that Antonio brought home from the streets took care of the tomatoes- and pretty much everything else they needed.
Maybe it wasn't perfect. Maybe a lot of people looked askance when they walked by, Antonio shamelessly holding Lovino's hand. Maybe Antonio wasn't allowed to go to church on Sundays and Lovino had to deal with aging (he did it poorly).
But they never looked back. They lived together and loved together, holding hands, one smiling, the other scowling, with no regrets to haunt them ever again.
Kitty: This was supposed to be done hours ago! ;w; Today is going to suck. Three hours of sleep, here I come. But NO REGRETS! I LOVED this story! Thank you for being here with me, everyone.